The Magdeburg black-earth region (Magdeburger Borde) is one of the most favoured agricultural areas of Central Europe. Its exceptionally high fertility generally guarantees crop yields well above average. To these natural characteristics were added favourable conditions of ownership and inheritance. The peasants in this region were freer than the serfs further east, and enjoyed a system of impartible inheritance. By the late feudal period this combination of circumstances had already led to a situation where the peasants could produce significant surpluses. Furthermore, they had also managed to retain most of the agricultural land themselves. The portion of the surplus that remained to them after payment of feudal land dues was decisive in fostering the development of a stable regional market. The area’s advantageous geographical position, close to the commercial centre of Magdeburg, which lay on the navigable River Elbe, also meant that it formed close ties with other markets fairly early on. This led at first to a modest, then later to a growing, accumulation of capital. We can estimate the extent of this accumulation from the fact that as early as the last quarter of the eighteenth century the majority of peasants wanted to commute their feudal dues into money rents. This development facilitated and stimulated the growing tendency of the more well-to-do peasants to employ day-labourers on their farms. All these factors laid the foundations for the later transformation of the peasants into capitalist farmers.